The unifying theme and goal of psychology is the understanding of individual human behavior in the context of our social, cultural and physical environment. Thus, the subject matter of psychology is central to the goals of a liberal arts education.
With its historical roots in philosophy and physiology, psychology continues to be an inherently interdisciplinary field. Psychology includes the study of brain-behavior relationships and adheres to the scientific method in its emphasis on empirical research; thus, in both content and methodology, psychology is viewed as one of the natural sciences. Psychologists explore fundamental questions concerning human motivation and values and, in so doing, also have strong ties with the humanities. As social scientists, our investigations include but are not limited to the laboratory study of humans and other animals; systematic study of human behavior and interaction often occurs in the community, workplace and clinical settings.
Our curriculum includes courses that provide grounding in the basic theoretical approaches and research methodology of psychology as well as a variety of courses and seminars designed to meet more focused interests, especially in areas of applied psychology. Often cited as the most distinctive strength of our department is the "real life laboratory" available to students who wish to complete field research, gain practical experience and engage in internship programs at the Oregon State Hospital, Services for Children and Families, Hillcrest Youth Correctional Facility and many other human service agencies located in Salem. Comparable practicum and internship programs typically are available only at the graduate level of study.
The majority of psychology majors ultimately pursue advanced degrees in psychology or in professional schools (e.g., business, education, law, medicine, social work, and theology). Some graduates choose to work in entry-level positions in psychology and other human service fields before applying to graduate programs. Students who have successfully completed internships clearly improve their prospects for being hired in such positions. Students who have, in addition, gained experience in conducting research, either in conjunction with an internship or by writing a data-based thesis, have a considerable advantage when applying for Ph.D. programs in psychology.